Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
A beautiful snow last week and tundra swans on the lake means that winter is upon us. This week, we have a holiday of Thanksgiving, to pause to be thankful for the year.  Gratitude is an important contributor to human well-being and we have much to be grateful for: our harvests and friendships as well as the miracle of seeds and vigor of plants and the work of pollinators and insect-eaters and even the soil microbes.
The last workdays of the year will be this weekend: On Saturday, Nov. 28 from 1 pm to 4 pm and on Sunday, Nov. 29 from 9 am to noon. Since the offices will be closed for the holiday and this is the last opportunity to work a workday, please just come if you would like to work. The workday crew will meet at the Eagle Heights garden shed at the start time. Bring gloves and water to drink and be sure to sign in for workday credit. Check the website for cancellations before coming since the work will be somewhat weather dependent.
Every gardener, new and returning, must reapply each year. Applications for 2016 will be available on the website around Dec. 15, 2015 and the application period goes until Feb. 15, 2016. Each year, some gardeners are disappointed to find their plot has been reassigned because they forgot to reapply so please apply early. Early applications have priority over late ones and after Feb. 15, the priority system will shift to a waiting list if plots are not available.
On this special week when we celebrate all we have to be thankful for, I want to personally thank all the gardeners for working to keep the gardens a positive place to garden. The organization would not run without the many volunteers who make the difference to the garden committee, workshops, Seed Fair, common plantings, coffee pickups, Food Pantry, translation services, and many individual efforts. Please consider joining the garden committee or volunteering to help with activities, maintenance, common plantings and all the facets of this remarkable garden.
Enjoy your winter and see you in the gardens in the spring,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Working in the gardens this fall has certainly been a joy. No mosquitoes, lots of sun and warm weather. I see a lot of Napa cabbage, bok choi, kale and other greens still in the gardens and I hope you are still enjoying your produce.
Eagle Heights gardeners should note that the winter parking signs have gone up. There is no parking on Eagle Heights Drive during the weekday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Weekends are still available for parking on the street. For weekdays, there are a few free (3 hour limit) parking spots at Frautschi Point lot (further north on Lake Mendota Drive at the curve in the road). You can walk from there to the gardens. The 80 bus also comes up to the gardens if you want to park in other metered lots such as the Picnic Point lot.
This weekend, there will be workdays on Saturday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 15 at Eagle Heights to work on shoring up the path in the 100's/200's. The weather looks favorable and we may not be able to get many more workdays in with possibilities for snow and cold coming. Please reply to this email if you would like to work and tell me which day you would like to come. I'll get you more details. We need quite a few volunteers for each day.
If you haven't been able to work or want to pay the "no workday option" , please remember the deadline is Dec. 1. After Dec. 1, there are substantial late fees ($20 per large plot;$10 per small plot) as well as losing your priority as a returning gardener and the chance to request your plot back. If you want to send a check ($32 for a large plot; $16 for a small plot), please make it out to Division of University Housing. You can drop it off or mail to the Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN : Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705. If you have any question about whether you worked or already paid, email and I will get back to you.
The goldfinches have lost their bright yellow colors but are still active in the gardens, eating the last of the sunflower seeds and other garden bits. All the squirrels and chipmunks are getting in the last of the store for winter and the geese are getting restless. Nature seems to be taking a big deep breath to get ready for colder temperatures but it is glorious while it lasts.
Gretel, Garden Regis

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dear University Houses gardeners,
The Lakeshore Preserve will be doing a controlled burn at the top of the Eagle Heights Woods (north of the U Houses gardens). The smoke may be visible, but there is little wind and smoke should go out over the lake. Only a portion around the mounds at the top is likely to be involved and a large crew will make sure that is it contained.
Please do not contact the Fire Department since they are already aware of the burn and will be contacted in the unlikely event that they are needed.
Controlled burning is one of the management tools to control invasive species and encourage native species without using pesticides. Fall burns set back the invasives when the native species have already died back for the season and sweep through the ground level without setting larger trees on fire.
The weather looks great and it should be quite a short process and a few other spots around Picnic Point are also being done today. Please stay out of the burn area.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
What a gift this week has been with marvelous temperatures and sunshine! The kinglets and juncos are in town. Kinglets are just passing through but you will enjoy these tiny birds flitting around with big eyes and bright colors on their heads. Juncos are two-tone grey birds feeding in the gardens that have white V tail feathers when they fly. They'll be with us all winter in small flocks of very tame birds. Leaves for mulching the gardens are starting to being delivered to Eagle Heights and there are lots at University Houses. Bedding down the plots now will mean less weeds germinating in the spring.
There is a workday scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7 from 9 am to noon at University Houses gardens. Plenty of  chores to put away the hoses, do path maintenance and work on some plots to prepare for new gardeners next year. Reply to this email and I'll get you more details.
Please remember that you will need to reapply for your plot if you wish to return next year. If you aren't returning, please let me know since it helps in getting plot assignments ready early. A few gardeners want to move next year to different plots and they could get started on preparing those plots if I knew they were coming open. Applications for 2016 will be on the website in mid-December. One change to the rules bans glass from the garden for safety reasons, so please remove any glass items this fall so they don't break with the winter temperatures and snow.
Hope you are getting out to enjoy this unseasonable weather. Still not too late to plant some garlic or daffodils!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
There has been a nice steady rain overnight to help replenish the soil moisture. Some migrating ducks are starting to show up on the lakes and a few loons as well. We have had a lovely fall with time to clean up the garden beds and start planning for next year and still have some greens and onions/chives to enjoy. There are even still a few flowers to brighten the spirits.
This Sunday , November 1, there will be a workday at Eagle Heights from 9 am to noon. There will be care of the fruit trees and path maintenance - a good chance to work off the Halloween calories. If you would like to work, please reply and I'll let you know more details.
We're hoping for nice weather to continue and some larger workdays coming in November if you are still hoping to work. If you would like to pay the "no workday option" fee, please make checks payable to Division of University Housing. Mail or drop off at Eagle Heights Community Center,  ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705.
It really is a great time of year to get outside. Besides cleaning up the garden, there are many ways to celebrate the season. Enjoy walking in the woods through the fallen leaves, stop by the lake to look at the migrating waterfowl, enjoy some hot cider and pumpkin pie and watch for spooky costumes on Halloween (Saturday) evening.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dear Gardeners,

One of our gardeners has a special offer for your garden. He makes compost "tea" with active cultures and will be giving it away on Saturday, October 24 in the afternoon. Bring a pint container to get some. Here is his message:
Sat.10/24 @ 3pm I will be handing out 16 oz of Actively aerated compost tea which is enough for 1000 sq ft of soil. I will be at the shed at Eagle Heights garden. One can mix the tea with water for easy sprinkling on the soil. The compost tea is rich with oxygen and microbes. It should be used with 24 hrs for maximum benefits. Microbes do not survive in ultraviolet rays so it  is recommended not to apply between 10am - 3pm. So, come with your container and C U then. I'll be there from 3-4pm Sat.
Thanks to Gary for the tea,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Fall leaves are really beautiful now and falling all too quickly. Green vegetables in the gardens will be even sweeter for the frost and you should be getting in garlic soon (or maybe you already have). Shallots are also a possibility for overwintering but be sure to remove the leaf mulch in the spring since the shallots can't push through the leaves as easily as the garlic.
There will be a workday at Eagle Heights on Saturday morning, Oct. 24,  from 8 am to 11 am. There will be fall chores to do and common area maintenance. Reply to this message and I'll let you know if there is still room. There will be workdays into November, but we start to have weather complications so if you would like to pay the "no workday option", make the check out to Division of University Housing ($32 for a large plot; $16 for a small) and drop off/mail to the Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53711.
Please remember to put the Dec. 15 date on your calendar for applying for a 2016 garden plot. Every gardener (returning or new) needs to reapply each year and 2016 applications will be available on our website by mid-December. Returning gardeners in good standing can apply for their same plot if they like and I will try within the priority system to get it back for you. Small plot gardeners can apply for a large plot as a returning gardener (or a second small plot if you would like to keep your old small plot). But.... you must apply by the deadline of Feb. 15, 2016 when I start assigning plots. Applications after that date are taken only after all the on-time applications are assigned. Every year, some returning gardeners are disappointed when they fail to reapply by the deadline and their plot gets reassigned. I'll try within the priority system to get you your desired plots as best I can but I can only do that for on-time applications.
Hoping you are saving some of your produce for Thanksgiving dinner! Nothing is like baked squash or pumpkin pie to celebrate the harvest.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds are getting scarce as they leave for warmer weather and the leaves on the trees are turning wonderful colors. It is cool and a great time to be out cleaning up the gardens and tending the late crops. We have been very lucky with this weather so I hope you have time to get out and enjoy it.
Saturday, Oct. 10, there will be a workday at Eagle Heights to work on the common area from 8 am to 11 am. If you would like to work this opportunity, please reply and I'll get you more information.
The workday obligation needs to be met by Dec. 1 . If you haven't done a workday and can't do a workday soon, you can fulfill the obligation by paying the "no workday option" fee ($32 for a large plot; $16 for a small plot). Make the check out to Division of University Housing and mail or drop off at the Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI, 53705.
We've been lucky with rains this fall and the water will be shut off sometime in mid-October so that we don't have problems with freezing in the pipes. With cooler temperatures and fewer crops, we still can expect to harvest some items up to a hard freeze but we can't chance the irrigation system. Some greens are even better after a light frost so don't pull things out too soon. We are hoping to get in leaves for mulch as they start to fall (both garden sites) so there should be plenty of mulch that will help with soil preparation in the spring and insulation for garlic that is planted this fall. Some years with mild winters, spinach and chard planted now will overwinter to provide fresh greens in early spring. You might want to put in just a little to see if you can get it to survive with a bit of leaf mulch. Those first spring crops are mighty tasty and El Nino means we don't have a good idea of how cold this winter will be.
Hope to see you in the gardens on these glorious fall days!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Welcome rain, but a real change of seasons is coming. There is some possibility of frost, especially if you are at University Houses or the bottom of the hill at Eagle Heights. Many things will survive light frost but the tomatoes, basil and other summer vegetables are usually killed by the first frost. One possibility to stretch out the season is to cover the veggies with row cover, fabric or cardboard boxes, but be sure to remove covers in the daytime. These protect the plants just a few degrees but can be useful if we are just near freezing.
Time to start thinking about where to plant the garlic (and shallots) and this Saturday, Oct. 3, there will be a garlic-planting workshop at Eagle Heights at 9 am. The weather should be chilly but clear and come learn about soil preparation, varieties to plant and tips for success from Gary. Meet at the Eagle Heights garden shed. It might be a little early to plant now, but you could still search out varieties at the  farmers' market and get the soil bed ready to plant in mid-to-late October.
Will arranged for horse manure to be brought to Eagle Heights. This is from Hoofer's (Memorial Union horse programs) and is partly composted and available for free. We can't dump any at University Houses because of the proximity of neighbors, but U Houses gardeners can bring vehicles and use carts to transport some to your car in buckets or a plastic-lined trunk. It would be ideal to work into the soil in any vacant spots you have to overwinter. We'd rather not have it piled over winter since runoff at spring thaw will be an issue so hopefully it can go out to plots now.
I've seen many butterflies around the gardens and migrating birds coming through. I'm hoping for a long fall with beautiful colors and plenty of time to harvest the last crops and clean up for next year.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall is here and garlic workshop in Oct.

Dear Gardeners,
Fall comes in this week but we are having lovely weather. The trees are just starting to have a few colored leaves and the geese have been honking overhead, but our gardens continue to produce. There are many fall chores to get done and a great time to be outside. Cleaning up plots now means that there will be less disease problems in the spring and an early start to planting those great spring vegetables.
One possibility if you are returning next year is to plant garlic or shallots to overwinter. Garlic can be planted in the spring, but the overwintered bulbs will get larger and be ready sooner. Gary, a gardener in the 600's , has offered a garlic planting workshop at the Eagle Heights gardens for Oct. 3 at 9 am. Come learn how easy it is to plant garlic bulbs and get some tips on soil preparation and timing. The local farmers' markets will have many varieties to try or you can plant some of your own if you are happy with the results.
The Garden Committee has just approved the application for next year. One change involve making sure that tall plant structures are sturdy and not shading the neighbors. The other is a specific prohibition of glass in the gardens after some difficulties this year. Plexiglass or plastic can be used for cold-frames but glass windows or jars should be removed since broken glass can be very difficult to pick up completely and poses a safety issue for other gardeners.
The new applications will be available on the website in mid-December. Every gardener, new and returning, needs to reapply each year. Please mark your calendars or set a reminder now. Each year, some returning gardeners miss the application period and are very disappointed when they find their plot has been reassigned . I make every effort to get gardeners in good standing back into their plots if they apply on time, but I can't do that if you don't apply. University Houses apartments are newly renovated and  being filled and  Hill Farms gardens are closing  so apply early since we may get more applications than ever next year. After Feb. 15, 2016, any remaining plots are filled on a first-come, first placed basis so don't miss the deadline.
We can expect to continue to get greens and fall vegetables into November. The birds are enjoying the sunflower seeds and soon we'll be getting deliveries of leaves for mulching down the beds. Enjoy your fall and all the good harvest meals. Be sure to check out the lunar eclipse due Sunday night around 9 pm with an especially close and large moon!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Wet, wet, wet.... The gardens are enjoying the rain and this will help replenish the ground moisture. After the rain, the weeds will pull easily and the weekend looks lovely.
Sunday, Sept. 20, there will be a workday at Eagle Heights to weed common areas and work on paths from 4 pm to 7 pm. This was decided late so please just come if you would like to work this opportunity. Meet at the Eagle Heights garden shed by 4 pm. Bring gloves for working and water to drink. Be sure to sign in on the sheet for workday credit for your plot.
Saw quite a few migrating butterflies in the gardens along with warblers and raptors!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The cooler temps are certainly welcome to gardeners after the heat and humidity but the garden plants enjoyed the summer weather. The harvest continues and we hope to have Food Pantry collections again this Saturday morning for any extra produce.
This Sunday, Sept. 13, there will be a workday at University Houses gardens from 4 pm to 7 pm to work on paths and restore the areas around the water system changes. Please reply if you would like more information and want to work. With fall coming on, we will have workdays but can't do evenings too late since the days are getting shorter. We try to move the workday schedule around when we can to accommodate work and activity schedules, but most workdays in the fall will be weekends midday.
You may have noticed the excellent new hose reel installed this summer. Today, more stations are going in at University Houses so that it will be easier to get the hoses to plots and returned in good condition. This will also mean that the paths will be clearer for traffic if the hoses are returned properly. Please take a few minutes to note how to release and return the hose. The reels were a definite investment and we want them to last a long time. There is a good system to store the reels and hoses over the winter and we hope this makes a much improved system for watering.
I have gotten some questions about "no workday option" fees. If you haven't been able to make a workday or haven't already paid, you can meet your obligation by paying this fee ($32 for a large plot; $16 for a small plot) by Dec. 1. After Dec. 1, you lose your priority to ask for you plot back if you haven't met your obligation. If you pay after Dec. 1, you are considered a new gardener and must pay the fee along with a late fee ($20 large plot;$10 small plot) before an application for 2016 can be accepted. You can pay by check made out to Division of University Housing and dropped off or mailed to the Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705. If you have any question about whether you paid or already worked, please just email and I can check the status for your plot.
As plants go to seed, you might consider keeping some seeds for next year. Some hybrid plants or those that cross-pollinate might not breed true, but many heirloom varieties of beans, flowers, herbs and tomatoes can easily be kept and replanted. If you have seeds to share, please consider labeling some extra packets and bringing them to next year's seed fair or sharing with your neighbors. See more information here on seed saving:
Now is a good time to reflect on the wonder of the gardens as we carry away such lovely vegetables and enjoy such good meals. Gratitude for the blessings helps body and soul.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
I'm enjoying the tomatoes and summer vegetables, but really looking forward to the crisp days of fall. Like the salad greens, I wilt in this heat. The gardens are really ramped up and going strong and the rain last week perked them up too.  The Food Pantry collections will be going on Saturday morning and don't forget to pick a little extra for the hungry.
This Saturday, we'll have a workday at University Houses gardens from 8 am to 11 am Icooler in the morning) to work on the paths and common areas. Please reply if you would like to work this opportunity and I'll get you more information.
I also got notice that there will be some grading work done at U Houses today trying to solve some of the runoff issues. Please be careful around the equipment and keep an eye on the children.
Next Tuesday, at the West Madison Agricultural Station, there will be an organic field day with taste testing of vegetables (try a lot of different varieties and give flavor feedback) and lots of good advice on organic management. The station is just outside the Beltline at 8502 Mineral Point Road and the Field day is Tuesday, Sept. 8 from 4 pm to 7 pm. More information here:
Just a reminder to all gardeners about the 2016 applications. We are revising the application now and every gardener will need to reapply for next year. Returning gardeners in good standing can request their same plot back and I'll make every effort to meet the requests if you apply in time and are paid up. Every year, people forget to apply and are disappointed when their plot has already been reassigned. Please mark your calendars. Applications will be available on the website in mid-December and must be submitted by Feb. 15, 2016 for prioritization. After Feb. 15, plots are assigned on a first-come basis.
It is not too soon to make some notes now about the varieties that you liked or want to replace next year and how you want to change how or when you plant. Make a map of the garden so you know where to rotate the tomatoes and what did well in what places or where to look for the perennials to return. Every year is different but even experienced gardeners try new tricks and keep learning.
I'm amazed at the insect variety in the gardens and the types of birds. The Redtail hawks are "weaning" their young and you'll hear the piteous cries of the youngsters who have to learn to hunt for themselves. The warblers are starting to come through and many hummingbirds fattening up for the trip south. Enjoy!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dear Gardeners,

Pretty cool the last couple of days, but the tomatoes are really coming in now. On our survey, tomatoes were the top vegetable grown by gardeners in our plots. Nothing can really beat the taste of a tomato that is ripened on the vine and in peak flavor.

The Dane County Farmer's Market is sponsoring a series of tomato preservation workshops. If you have more tomatoes than you can eat fresh, this is an opportunity to learn about canning, freezing and dehydrating tomatoes for later use. The classes start tonight (canning demonstration) at 6 pm at Feed Kitchens, 1219 Sherman Avenue. There is a fee for the classes but refreshments and supplies are provided and you can learn from experts. Later classes are Sept. 8 with hands-on canning and Sept. 15 for freezing and dehydrating. More info at :
Tomato Preservation Workshop Series - Dane County Farmers' Market
Dane County Farmers’ Market is offering a three-part series on tomato preservation at Feed Kitchens with Master Food Preserver Polly Reott! The peak of tomato season is ramping up. Vine-ripe, sweet and juicy tomatoes are already loading up the tables … Continue reading →
Our food pantry program has been struggling due to thefts from the bins and we are working on a better system to make sure your donated produce gets to the pantry. This Wednesday's pickups are cancelled and we will try for a different system on Saturday , perhaps with gardeners volunteering to attend the bins and thank the donors.

Not too late to put in a little dill, cilantro, arugula and lettuce for the late fall. The weather is always unpredictable, but we can have some veggies into November.

Gretel, Garden Registrar
Garden website:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Well after a dry spell, we finally got a good rain (two in fact) and the plants seem very happy. Hope you are getting lots to harvest and enjoying the season. The plants like that hot humid weather even if it makes us uncomfortable and the gardens are really producing.
This Saturday, August 22, there will be a workday at Eagle Heights gardens from 8 am to 11 am to work in the weed pile area and fix up the sandboxes. Please reply if you would like to work and I'll get you more information.
The garden committee has also extended the deadline to submit a statement of interest for the co-chairs positions until Sept. 3. We'll be voting on this at our September meeting and please consider contributing to make the gardens a better place. More information is available on the Registrar's archive for July 29 on the website.
I need to ask your help with a particular matter : WEEDS and Plant debris. . We have a designated area for weeds at the start of the A row with rock boundaries. Please don't put your weeds in the dumpster, or the paths or the leaf piles or the common areas or the Preserve.  Please stop anyone that you see putting vegetable matter anywhere but the weed pile area. We all have responsibility for keeping the order in the gardens and we need your help educating everyone about how to do this. The workday crews and field staff who have to clean up after the mistakes will thank you as well as all the rest of the gardeners.
The sad news is that the cranes lost their chick this year (unknown how) but they have been coming up to amuse us and a mink has been sighted in the woods just above University Houses gardens.  Hummingbirds are very busy gaining weight before the long flights south. Enjoy the basil and tomato sandwiches, the tomatillo/pepper salsa, the cucumber salads, eggplant casseroles and the continuing squash and green beans! Thank the soil and the sun and your hard work for the feast.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The gardens are a jungle to behold with beans, squash and tomatoes all trying to spread and flourish. This is a productive year and everyone rejoices as the tomatoes start coming in.  You might keep an eye out for the tomato hornworms (I found one recently) which are huge and have a big appetite. They are green and hard to spot on plants. Just pick them off and rid of them (throwing them in the weed pile might feed a hungry bird).
More info and pictures here:
This Sunday, August 9, there will be a workday in Eagle Heights from 8 am to 11 am to work in the common areas and paths. If you would like to work this opportunity, just reply and I'll get you more details.
Basil downy mildew is affecting a lot of plants in the gardens. Basil is so wonderful with tomatoes. Be sure to get your basil into full sun by pruning plants around it and leave plenty of space around for air movement. Please remember that only organically approved fungicides are allowed at Eagle Heights and the A and B plots at University Houses. More information is available here including pictures varieties that are more resistant:

Mark your calenders for an Urban Horticulture Field Day at the West Madison Agricultural Research station (just outside the Beltline on Mineral Point Road). This is scheduled for August 15 , a week from Saturday, from 10 am to 2 pm. Lots of kids activities, a vegetable taste test, experts to answer questions and fun for all. I'll have more info next week.
Don't forget to plant some cilantro, dill and arugula for fall,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The harvest is really on now and even the tomatoes are starting to come in. There are many wonderful vegetables to eat now and I hope you are enjoying your meals after the hard work. The rains have come at good times this year but now it is getting a little drier. Be sure to mulch to conserve water and keep the roots at even moisture. Still time to plant fall crops in any open spaces.
This Sunday, August 2, we will have a workday at University Houses from 8 am to 11am to work on paths and common areas. Please reply if you would like to work this opportunity and I will get you more information. We will have workdays quite late into the fall but please remember that you need to meet your workday obligation by Dec. 1 (by working or paying the "no workday option" fee.
An event you might be interested in is coming up. There is a national and international movement to protect open-pollinated and heirloom varieties of vegetables and other food crops. Here in Madison, there will be a conference , a three day event sponsored by the Department of Horticulture. They invite farmers, gardeners, and curious eaters to Organic Seed School on August 9
Register by August 6! There is a fee, but there are meals involved. More information at
This is a great local opportunity to learn about seed programs and the importance of evaluating varieties for organic and home production.
The cranes have been sighted with an offspring so keep your eyes open in the gardens. The "colt" is so cute at this age. The parents might be extra protective so please move slowly around them.
Finally, I hope that some of you will consider serving the gardens as co-chairs. (Send a statement of interest by August 8). More information is available on our website under the email archive in the left column. We really appreciate the work it takes and how many volunteers contribute to making the gardens function.
Happy eating!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Gardeners:
We all know the Eagle Heights Community Gardens are a special place. And Madison Magazine called it one of Madison’s 8 hidden gem gardens. But it takes a lot of behind the scenes work to make the gardens run so well.
Although our gardens run smoothly thanks, in part, to the efforts of our excellent part-time paid employees, we also rely heavily on volunteer efforts. One of our main volunteer positions is that of Garden Committee Chair. This position is held by two individuals (Co-Chairs), who share the responsibilities and duties. We, Jennifer Mirrielees and Diana Bottomley, will be stepping down from our co-chair positions in the upcoming months.
Candidates for Co-Chair must be current Eagle Heights or University Houses gardeners. Ideally, the candidates could also be UW students and/or residents of Eagle Heights, University Houses, or Harvey Street Apartments. It is, however, not necessary for both of the Co-Chairs to be students/residents.
Thank you for considering serving the gardens in this capacity, and please pass this message on to anyone you know who might be interested. Attached is a document that provides a description of the chair position and what the chair does.  If you are interested, please send in a statement of interest by August 8th. The committee will discuss and vote at the September 9th committee meeting.
Please contact us with any questions or join us at our August 12th Committee Meeting at 6:30 at the Eagle Heights Garden to see what the chairs do and/or ask any questions at the end of the meeting.
Happy Gardening!
Jennifer Mirrielees and Diana Bottomley
Co-Chairs, Eagle Heights Garden Committee

Eagle Heights Garden Committee Chair Description
The description below outlines all the responsibilities the Chair has in the gardens. While we often refer to “The Chair”, remember that the position is split between two individuals, each acting as a Co-Chair. Communication between the Co-Chairs is critical.
The Chair of the garden committee is a volunteer position whose primary responsibility is facilitating communication within the gardens. The main duty of the Committee Chair is presiding at and moderating the garden meetings; the Chair also helps to moderate the forum and the discussion list. The Committee Chair has no particular power to make decisions but does have power to frame the debate, set agendas, encourage or limit debate, and bring issues to a vote. Because of this, the Chair has a special responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard and that everyone who is interested has a chance to participate.
Other aspects of the Committee Chair's role as communication facilitator include making sure that minutes are taken at garden meetings, taking notes at the Garden Oversight Committee (GOC) meetings, and being a representative from the garden committee to the GOC, along with the Registrar and Field Staff. The Chair also announces garden meetings and agendas and ensures that minutes and other relevant information is distributed. While the Registrar is the primary person who communicates with all gardeners via the e-mail list, the Committee Chair also has some responsibility to make sure that all gardeners are staying informed and are given the chance to be involved in decision making.
In addition to the communication role outlined above, the Chair is expected to help the Registrar and Treasurer prepare annual budgets and provide oversight to make sure that income and expenses are in line with projections. The Chair is expected to check in regularly with the Registrar and Field Staff regarding the hours they work and their completion of necessary tasks. The Chair also assists the Registrar in the general running of the gardens, for example by reminding the Registrar or other committee members of things that might be falling through the cracks, and by making sure that policies are clear and the pertinent issues are brought up at the garden meetings.
The Chair may also choose to take on special projects as desired. Ideally, the Chair would also set an example to gardeners and other Garden Committee members by providing leadership at occasional workdays.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
We are having a really great year for weather with well-timed rains and warm temperatures. The abundance at the gardens is amazing with the beans, cucumbers and squash coming in and the spring vegetables still holding in there. Even the birds are nesting for second and third times with the favorable conditions.
Workday opportunity:
This week on Sunday, July 26, there will be a workday from 8 am to 11 am at Eagle Heights garden to work on common areas, fruit plantings and the weed pile maintenance. Please email if you would like to work this workday and I'll get you more information.
With the harvest comes the question of how to put away all the extra veggies for winter and keep things from going to waste. There are many options including the Food Pantry but also canning, dehydrating, freezing and pickling. Check out some resources from Extension here
Also on our website: resources for dehydrating and pickling recipes (bottom of the page)
Onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots and beets will keep a long time if properly stored and don't forget to put in some fall crops now to keep the harvest going.
This is really mid-season now so I'd like to ask you a favor. Take a couple of minutes and contribute to the garden upkeep. Pick up trash, get things out of the paths, return tools or carts that are left away from the shed and be a good garden citizen. We need many hands to keep the gardens going and you can show your appreciation in many individual ways or join the garden committee and participate that way (next meeting is at Eagle Heights on August 12).
Happy gardening and eating!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Worms, weeds and thefts

Dear Gardeners,
The harvests are really coming in now. The squash plants are growing daily and threatening to take over. I see lots of beans and squash and even some peppers and eggplants. Just a few cherry tomatoes so far but the vines are looking great.
There is a new invasive species of earthworm coming into Wisconsin and we have now had a confirmed observation of them in the Gardens. For background, all earthworms are introduced (not native ) in Wisconsin and we generally think of them as beneficial in gardens. These new earthworms ("crazy" worms or" jumping" worms) are a big problem in forests and natural areas since they have large populations that eat all the material on the forest floor. They will eat the organic material in gardens too and will change the soil texture. A gardener in University Houses gardens took some in for diagnosis and had confirmation but we have had several reports from Eagle Heights as well.
More info and pictures here:
The cocoons can be spread in soil, transplants, on boots and tires and tools and with discarded fishing bait. To avoid spreading these around to natural areas or your home landscaping, please clean your tools and boots. Otherwise, be aware that you might want to mulch more heavily to increase the organic material in your soil. Pulling weeds and using them as mulch around the plants is certainly easier than taking them away to the weed pile and you should consider this as a way to keep soil and organic material in your plot.
Sometimes, I worry about the weekly message about pests in the gardens, but then I look around and see all the production. There are strategies to work on the pests and to encourage predators to keep them in balance. We have a very active ecosystem and pests are just a part of it. Each year, some crops suffer, but others do very well. Don't get overwhelmed by the ups and down and just enjoy the vegetables that are thriving.
Finally, I am discouraged by the report of thefts from the gardens and the food pantry bins. This is despicable behavior and our best way to prevent this is to watch out for each other's plots and the food pantry bins. Please get to know your garden neighbors and question people if you see them in someone else's plot. If you are going to be away on a trip and ask someone to watch your plot, please make sure they know the location and the boundaries so they are not harvesting in someone else's plot. You are responsible for getting this message to all the gardeners in your plot and there are serious consequences for thefts including loss of gardening privileges and possible police involvement.
The middle of July is usually the last point to plant additional summer crops, but from now until the end of August, you can plant fall vegetables: bok choi, napa cabbage, arugula, lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli raab, turnips  and many more.
Don't forget to enjoy your gardens as you are working. The flowers look so great now and the smells (basil and dill and cilantro) are heavenly and the bees are busy and buzzing. This is a great time of salads and curries and stir-fry with real abundance. We all await the tomatoes and cucumbers that are not far away.
Gretel, Garden Registra

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dear Gardeners,

What great timing for the rain this week! The gardens are getting to be quite a jungle as the beans get tall and the tomatoes get bushy.  I see some early green beans being harvested and squash starting to bloom. The hummingbirds and bees have been very happy with all the flowers blooming.

This weekend, we'll have two workdays at University Houses gardens: Saturday, 7/11 and Sunday, 7/12, both from 8 am to 11 am. Please reply if you would like to work one of these opportunities (workday credit is available working at either garden site). The plans call for weeding in the blueberries, fixing up the paths and maintenance of common areas.

You might want to check out the Garden blog by Jennifer for more info and pictures about last year's crane chick. On the webpage at :

I've seen a few Japanese beetles in the gardens. These black, shiny and metallic-looking beetles eat a lot and like many crops and flowers. They are slow and you can hand-pick them into a jar of soapy water to kill them. Pictures available here:

Please remember that all of the plots at Eagle Heights are restricted to only organic methods , including fertilizers and pest control. You can find some guidelines on our website. We have a lot of children (and ourselves) and wildlife to protect.

As you pull out the lettuce and spinach in this warmer weather, be sure to replant some bush beans, cilantro or basil.  It is getting late for tomatoes or peppers to go in, but you still might get some summer squash which grow very fast.

Hoping you are enjoying the beets and carrots and onions I see being harvested now,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Looks like a stretch of incredibly nice weather in store for us this week and for the holiday weekend.  The summer crops will be happy with some sunshine and we'll all have a chance to catch up in the plots.
Happy, happy news!
I had some very good news to share. The crane chick from last year was hit by a car on University Bay Drive but went to a rehabilitation center for the winter. She is fully healed now and flying well and has formed a friendship with a male crane at the center. We are so happy since her injuries prevented her from migrating and now it seems she has recovered and comes and goes from the center at will.

Workday at EH:
This Sunday, we'll have a workday from 8 am to 11 am at Eagle Heights to work on weeding in the fruit trees and paths. Please reply if you would like to work this opportunity and I'll get you more information.
Mexican bean beetles sighted:
I've had one report of bean beetles starting up in the bean plants. We have released insect predators for these pests in the past and may do so again if there are a lot of problems. You can see pictures of the yellow fuzzy larvae and eggs here:
Hand-picking the larvae and destroying the egg masses is the best control, but please let me know if you see these on your beans so we can decide whether to purchase the insect controls. We will only do this if we have a lot of damage since they are expensive and won't be effective unless we have a lot of beetles for them to eat.
Garlic harvest?
A few varieties of garlic are getting ready to harvest. Some early varieties may be ready now but others may be up to a month from now. There is a narrow window if you want to harvest and store garlic for all winter. Too soon and the heads aren't finished growing and won't dry well; too late and they coverings will not prevent spoilage.   Most recommendations are that there are some dry leaves and some green leaves on the plants at harvest and you can read about it here as well as how to cure for storage:
I've seen some beans with blossoms and even a few with little beans. The onions are starting to bulb up and the squash plants are really starting their growth spurt and some are starting to produce. Just a wonderful time now in the gardens. Please remember the Food Pantry program (Saturday before 10 am pickup or Wednesday before 8 am) if you have surplus.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Hope you are keeping up with the battle of the weeds. The crops are looking great with lots of carrots and beets and turnips being carried home and the peas still holding on. There are flowers on some of the beans and a few new potatoes. Spraying for potato beetles was done last week to knock back the population, but keep hand-picking if you see adults or larvae. Careful attention to the small larvae will mean much less damage.
On Wednesday evening, there will be a workday at Eagle Heights to do more weeding in the common areas from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Please email if you would like to work this opportunity and I'll get you more information. We are trying to do a few weekday evenings with the long days but can only do that for a few weeks.
This Wednesday, we will start the Share the Bounty program.
  1. Put your donated veggies in the containers by 8 a.m. Wednesday or by 10:00 a.m. Saturday. Keep in mind that if you leave something delicate like lettuce in the bins on Thursday, it will wilt long before bins are collected on Saturday.
  2. Volunteers take the vegetables to the pantry where they will be much appreciated by families in need of extra help to stock their pantries with fresh fruits and veggies.
  3. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Remember that items meant for sharing with other gardeners at EHCG are placed on the share shelves, not in the Saint Vincent de Paul Share the Bounty bins. Please do not take produce out of the donation bins, as our gardeners have chosen to donate their fruits and vegetables to those in need.

The turtle has been sighted several places in the gardens and we think we have two mink in Eagle Heights. One of the mink was seen running by with a rodent in its mouth. The hawks have also been hunting (for their young?). We applaud the natural controls for our voles and chipmunks. Now just have our fingers crossed that the cranes have offspring too.

The flowers are looking great in the gardens with the daylilies and bee balm coming in now. Plant a few more bush beans or cilantro or carrots if you have an open space.

Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
This has been a wonderful year so far with the rains coming at just the right times and in needed amounts. It also means that the insects and fungal diseases are prospering so be on the lookout for potato and squash beetles and mildew on some plants. The poppies and daylilies are really decorating the gardens now and the mosquitoes haven't been too bad yet.
Next Wednesday we start our donations to the food pantry! The Share the Bounty project collects produce from Eagle Heights and University Houses gardeners and transports it to the St. Vincent De Paul food pantry, the county’s largest food bank. Starting Wednesday, 7/1/2015, containers will be placed across from the Eagle Heights garden shed or behind the University Houses shed on the white stands.
Here's how it works:
  1. Put your donated veggies in the containers by 8 a.m. Wednesday or by 10:00 a.m. Saturday. Keep in mind that if you leave something delicate like lettuce in the bins on Thursday, it will wilt long before bins are collected on Saturday.
  2. Volunteers take the vegetables to the pantry where they will be much appreciated by families in need of extra help to stock their pantries with fresh fruits and veggies.
  3. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Remember that items meant for sharing with other gardeners at EHCG are placed on the share shelves, not in the Saint Vincent de Paul Share the Bounty bins. Please do not take produce out of the donation bins, as our gardeners have chosen to donate their fruits and vegetables to those in need.
I look forward to seeing all of our gardeners' extra zucchini, beans, and other over-yields fill our bins! Happy Gardening from Jen and Alison, Food Pantry coordinators
I see a few new potatoes and beets and garlic and carrots coming out of the gardens with tons of lettuce and other greens. Hoping you are keeping up with the weeds and enjoying the salads,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Wet out there today, but we are planning an Eagle Heights workday for Wednesday, June 24 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm to work on the flower area around the shed and continue work on the path in the 700's. Some of you have been asking for a non-weekend workday so here is an opportunity. If you would like to work this time, please reply and I'll get you more information.
I've also received some inquiries about the Food Pantry program. We will start collecting donations on Wednesday, July 1 and I'll get you more information on the program before then.
Carrots and beets and peas! O my!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
We seem to be having a very good year with the peas and kale and carrots coming in now. I've seen green tomatoes and peppers on some of the plants and my beets are starting to swell. The rains have been great for settling in the transplants and for growing weeds. At least the weeds are pulling easily with the soft soil but we are also seeing a lot of insects in the gardens. This morning, I saw four kinds of butterflies and a couple of moths (check your cabbages for caterpillars). We also have squash bugs coming out and Sandra sent along a good reference for squash pests: See
She also mentions mounding up the dirt at the base of squash plants to help since eggs of squash borers are laid right at the base of the plant.
We are going to have two workdays this weekend starting a project to repair the path along the odd 700 plots in Eagle Heights which is eroding. We will also be preparing a flower bed up by the Eagle Heights shed. The workdays will be Saturday, 6/20 from 9 am to noon and  Sunday, 6/21, from 2 pm to 5 pm. If you would like to work one of these opportunities, please reply and tell me which one and I will get you more information.
The gardens are a very busy place now with people needing tools so please don't hoard the tools and carts but return them to the shed each time you leave the gardens. There is also a lot of wildlife in the gardens with mink sightings, toads all over, the cranes visiting singly (hopefully while the other sits a nest) and even a turtle seen munching strawberries. An active ecosystem is really valuable to keep the insect and rodent pests in check.
Enjoy the butterflies as you work!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The rain really helped the plants and now the sun is making them grow very quickly. There is a sudden green cast to the entire gardens with new growth. I saw someone with young carrots already harvested and lettuce is everywhere. There really isn't anything like salads in the spring with dill and cilantro and other herbs.
Insect workshop:
Good bug, bad bug and other pests.   Who is munching on those plants!  This informal, mini-workshop will cover identification, life cycles and strategies for dealing with crop destroying pests in your garden.  Bring your questions and observations.  For purposes of identification, you may bring un-squished bugs in jars or plastic bags.  June 6, Saturday, 11 am – noon, U Houses Garden, picnic table near the shed.
Plots available:
I also want to let you know that a few large plots are still available at each garden site. These are now half-price for the plot so please let friends who are considering gardening know. To apply, send or drop off an application (available on the website) and check (half-price) to the Eagle Heights Community center. There is one small plot available at EH at the moment from someone who changed their mind.
Workday opportunity:
We'll have a workday on Saturday, June 6 at Eagle Heights from 9 am to noon. We need to work on the common areas including weeding in the fruit trees and fixing up the sandbox area. If you would like to work this opportunity, please reply and I'll get you more details and let you know if we still have room for volunteers. We can take quite a few for these tasks.
Theft issues (sadly):
Unfortunately, I need to remind you about the theft issues in the gardens. I've had several reports of items missing from plots and vegetables taken. Please tell everyone who works in your plot that they should stay out of other plots and never take anything that doesn't belong to you. We take these issues seriously and you could lose your plot for thefts and we may get the police involved. Please get to know your neighbors since our best defense in these issues is to keep an eye out for each other.
Garlic scapes:
I noticed that some of my garlic varieties are starting to produce scapes (blossom buds). Hard-neck garlic will be growing these shoots soon and will benefit from your taking the scapes off by making larger bulbs. Besides, these scapes are delicious! More information, photos and recipes here:
Finally, please leave the boundary markers (at the corner of your plots) in place. We have had people taking them out and using them for plant supports or throwing them away. These fiberglass or conduit markers should only be moved by garden staff so please contact me if you have questions.
Early mornings have been a delight in the gardens with all the birds and dewy plants. Hope you are enjoying the experiences and starting to see results.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
One of our experienced gardeners, Sandra, is going to do a short workshop to help you with insect questions in your gardens. Gardeners (experienced and inexperienced) welcome to attend and bring friends. Come to either session (or both!)
Here is her description:
Good bug, bad bug and other pests.   Who is munching on those plants!  This informal, mini-workshop will cover identification, life cycles and strategies for dealing with crop destroying pests in your garden.  Bring your questions and observations.  For purposes of identification, you may bring un-squished bugs in jars or plastic bags.  
May 31, Sunday, 11 am – noon, Eagle Heights Garden Arbor.  
June 6, Saturday, 11 am – noon, U Houses Garden, picnic table near the shed.
The gardens are a whole web of life and come learn more about the insect side of this world.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The toads have been all over the gardens, happy with the rain. We welcome them since they eat insects and don't harm the plants. The rains have also really helped the crops and the weeds get going. It seems I can see growth overnight. Lots of lettuce, kale and radishes look ready to eat.
We are getting to the point where we need to be on the lookout for Colorado potato beetles. These pests really eat a lot of foliage and are destructive of potatoes as well as eggplants and other crops. You should inspect the underneath of potato leaves for masses of golden eggs (these can be brushed off and crushed) and later some clay-colored larva (these eat the most) that can be drowned in a small container of soapy water or crushed. Adults are beetles striped with yellow/black. We can spray an organically approved Bt spray but need to time it well so scouting for the right time is important. Hand removal is most useful and can occur even when conditions are not right for our spraying.  Let me know if you see larvae and your plot numbers. Pictures and more information are available here:
I also wanted to let you know a little about garden finances. The University provides the land and some services, but the gardens are mainly run from the plot fees. We have three part-time employees, a registrar (me)  and two field staff (Will and Dave), but the total of all our hours of paid employment is less than a half-time position. We buy and repair the carts and tools, deal with the plot assignments and fees, run workdays and keep the plumbing running and deal with individual issues as best we can. Please understand that our paid time is very limited and many things go on that require our labor. Our garden co-chairs are volunteers along with a number of roles that committee members fill and volunteer coordinators for workshops, Share the Bounty food pantry program and coffee recycling. We couldn't survive without many volunteers who make the gardens run. Please consider volunteering to keep these gardens a vital place.
Now is a great time to get in the last of the summer vegetables. We shouldn't have any danger of frost and the squash and beans are coming up all over the gardens and tomatoes, peppers and eggplants settling in. You can plant multiple plantings of bush beans to have a more regular supply and planting a little cilantro every 10 days or so will keep you in fresh salsa all summer. Plant a few flowers for the pollinators and enjoy the blossoms as you work.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
This weekend is Memorial Day, a holiday that often marks the start of summer gardening season. Although we've had some cool nights, there hasn't been frost and I see many tomato, pepper and eggplants going in. Now is a good time to plant beans, cucumbers and squash and the weeds have really liked the recent rains. Plenty to do in the gardens but keep an eye out for the hummingbirds that have arrived to buzz around the flowers.
We have a program that will start in June called Share the Bounty that encourages gardeners to plant some extra produce to donate to the local food pantry. There is great need at the pantries for fresh produce and we'll be collecting vegetables that you want to donate on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer. The coordinators for this have a few open delivery dates if you would like to drive the donations to the pantry. Please let me know if you want to contribute in that way. More on this in early June when we are ready to start and the vegetables start coming in.
Do you like working with flowers and ornamental plants? We have some common plantings that could use a couple of additional volunteers for the arbor area at Eagle Heights. Please let me know if you would like to work on the flower beds near the picnic tables. Thanks to Niels for the awning that has been put up to make the arbor a shady place to sit.
With the weeds growing fast, we'll be working on the mowing of paths and still have problems with items left in the paths. In order to mow, we'll be moving sticks and hoses back into plots as best we can, but please put these items inside your plots so we don't inadvertently place them on seeded areas or small plants.
We will also be starting up the jury process fairly soon. We do have plots that get abandoned without notification and we try to catch those by having a jury of your fellow gardeners come around to look for exceptionally weedy plots. We also want to catch the weeds before they seed and create problems for all the neighbors. If the jury marks your plot, you have two weeks to work on the weed situation and can get help (in exchange for an extra workday) if you need it. We aren't trying to throw people out of the gardens but we need to control weeds and discover abandoned plots before they impact everyone else. There is a write-up about the process here
Luckily, the rain has made pulling weeds somewhat easier. A thick layer of leaves can help keep the weeds from returning and has the added benefit of mulch to keep the soil loose and moist for your plants. The flea beetles are feasting on the arugula and radishes and only a barrier such as row cover seems to help that.
This has been glorious weather working in the gardens and the mosquitoes aren't here yet so I hope you can enjoy the weekend and get some gardening time in. Plan a picnic in the gardens or just stroll through to see how everyone else is doing and enjoy the flowers.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sale this weekend and mowing started
Registrar <> Eagle Heights Community Garden; Dear Gardeners,
The gardens are really starting to look green! Two beautiful birds have returned to the gardens: look for orioles (bright orange and black males) singing with a clear whistle that is quite melodic and indigo buntings (navy blue but bright blue males in the sun). I've seen them at both garden sites and they are nesting close by. Both sit high in trees with the males singing to attract mates.
This Sunday, rain or shine, we'll have our warm weather plant sale near the Eagle Heights shed from 11 am to 1 pm. Expect tomatoes, eggplants and peppers along with herbs and other plants from our organic vendor, Gardens-to-be. Although we had frost last night in spots, you should be able to put out the plants right away if you give them some protection with row cover or a cardboard box if we get the threat of frost again. Hopefully, we are on a warming trend and the plants will thrive.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get compost for sale this year but we hope to get horse manure and lakeweed later if possible. We are working on getting coffee deliveries to both garden sites. Let me know if you are interested in helping with coffee pick-ups and I'll forward your email to Deanna who is coordinating.
The grass and weeds are growing quickly. We hope to be able to check out the broadforks (tined hand tillers) during the sale on Sunday and we are starting to mow the common areas. There are many hoses in the paths and you risk having your hose cut by the mower if you leave it out. Please move all items (wood, plantings , pots and hoses) inside your plot boundaries. Note that the plot boundary markers are white fiberglass or metal posts topped with yellow paint. There are only to be moved by garden staff and any questions about their placement should be sent to the garden registrar. We really need your help keeping the paths clear.
You can plant a lot of crops now although you might want to hold off on the very summery types. You can check a great planting guide on our website on this page (look down for "growing guides"
I ate my first salad this week by taking one leaf from each plant. Hope your seedlings are coming up and your strawberries blooming!
See you at the sale!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Workday and garden events
Dear Gardeners,

Wonderful and needed rain this week and the plants have really perked up. This means the weeds are growing fast as well as the crops. Trees are leafing out and the flowers in the woods are delicate and lovely.

We will have a workday this Saturday, May 9 from 9 am to noon at University Houses gardens. You can get workday credit for your plot by working at either site so feel free to sign up even if your plot is at Eagle Heights. There are a number of winter clean-up chores to do and we could use quite a few volunteers. If you would like to work this opportunity, please reply and I'll get you more details.

There is also a family gardening workshop this Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm on campus at several locations. This is a family-friendly event with lots of activities for children and good gardening tips. For more information, see:

Remember that we will be having our warm weather plant sale on Sunday, May 17 from 11 am to 1 pm. it is still a little early to plant out tomatoes, peppers or eggplants although it seems warm to all of us. Some people push the season with row cover or other protection but waiting until mid-May is safer.

Please check that you are gardening inside the plot boundaries. We have had some unfortunate instances of people digging up crops in other plots. Also, I regret to say we have had some thefts of plants and equipment. Do not borrow or take anything from another plot without permission. Thefts are taken seriously and you could lose your plot and opportunity to garden.

The long evenings and early mornings are really good times to be in the gardens. There is something about the slanting light coming through the plants and the smell of freshly turned soil that really makes us happy. Enjoy the first flush of green and all the tiny plants!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gardening manual, compost tea and last chance for survey

Dear Gardeners,
Spring is really coming on with flowering trees and birds building nests (and even feeding babies already). I see lots of little plants coming up in the gardens and spring crops won't be far behind. Now is a great time to plant lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots, beets, peas and potatoes. We may have a few frosty nights yet so keep an eye on the weather forecasts, but the warm days are certainly welcome.
Gardening manual:
For those of you new to gardening and others with specific questions, please check out our on-line organic gardening manual by Robin Mittenthal, one of our previous gardeners. It is written for our climate and includes lots of general information and lists of individual vegetables and their care. You can download (or read it on line) here:
That page also has Emma Schroeder's thesis with a historical perspective of the gardens and a page to help you understand how to buy products that are approved for organic use.
Compost tea giveaway:
One of our gardener, Gary, has a special treat this Saturday, May 2. He has prepared a batch of actively aerated compost tea. He will be giving that away in pint-size batches on Saturday starting at 3 pm near the Eagle Heights shed. Bring a container or bucket. The "tea" should be diluted to about 5 gallons and used promptly and should cover a large plot. The water for dilution shouldn't be chlorinated so Gary recommends letting tap water sit uncovered for several hours before adding it to the tea.
For more information:
I've also included his recipe as an entry in the Registrar's archive on our website.
Coffee recycling coordinator needed:
We are looking for a coffee collection coordinator. John, our previous coordinator, is willing to tell you how it has been done in the past. Coffee grounds make excellent soil additives. You would need to coordinate pick-ups at local coffee houses so that we don't burden them and can do a schedule to spread the deliveries to different times. People who do regular deliveries (both garden sites) can get workday credit by working with the coordinator. If you are interested in helping out the gardens as  coordinator, please reply to me.
Path clearing:
Please check the path in front of your plots and don't put sticks, rocks or plantings in the path. We need to keep the paths open for carts and gardeners. We especially need to have the hoses off the paths since mowing will start soon and hoses could be damaged.
One last plea:
We would really like to know more about our gardeners and encourage your input. If you haven't taken the survey yet, it will only take a few minutes so please take it in the next week so we can get the information summarized. See:
Gardener Survey
I hope you have gotten to meet some of your neighbors and enjoy the smell of turned soil and new growth. Spring is such a time of promise in the gardens.
Gretel, Garden Registrar
Gary's information on making actively aerated compost tea:

AACT- Actively Aerated Compost Tea
Benefits: Rhizosphere (root system) faster intro of microbes than
compost or mulch
Phylosphere (stem & leaf) can protect the surfaces from attack of pathogens
Web Search:
Book: Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis (a great gift for any gardener)

AACT is a method of producing and applying microbes to any garden or lawn. Microbes just enrich the soil where applied. Breaking down the recipe I used: 16 oz of AACT mixed with dechlorinated water will cover 1000 sq ft.

Dechlorinated Water Compost
5 gal 1 lb. (4 cups)
25 gal 5 lb. (20 cups)
50 gal 7 lb. (28 cups)
Materials: Clean bucket (can be oversized for bubbles), pantyhose
(size Q), strong aquarium pump and air stone (can substitute 2 ft. soaker hose designed for drip irrigation), 4 ft. plastic tubing.
If using tap water w/chlorine just use pump w/water alone for an hour or two to dissipate chemical. Add pantyhose filled with compost and the
process time should be for 24-36 hrs. Be sure to put a weight at the end of the air hose to keep it on the bottom. The tea should have a
healthy, sweet, earthy smell. Keep out of sunlight (UV rays kill microbes) and needs an average room temperature to brew. Use within 4 hrs but can last 3-5 days if refrigerated but oxygen will be diminished. Avoid applying between 9am till 3pm as UV rays are strong).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Workday at Uhouses and Earth Day

Dear Gardeners,
What fickle weather we are having! After the lovely warm and sunny weekend, there were flurries this morning. In spite of the cold spell, the bloodroot and Dutchman's breeches are starting to bloom in the woods and killdeer are nesting in garden plots (see picture of this lovely bird here)
Workday opportunity
This Saturday, April 25, there will be a workday at University Houses gardens to do path maintenance and other spring chores from 9 am to noon. If you would like to work this opportunity, please reply and I will get you more details. Gardeners can do their workday at either garden site and get credit for their plot.
Share shelf
Do you have extra plants, seeds or pots ? Leave any useable materials you would like to share with other gardeners on the "share shelf" beneath the bulletin board near the shed. Anything put here is available to other gardeners and will be recycled into other gardens.
Water considerations
Please remember that the water taps are only every other row at Eagle Heights. If you have a water tap in front of your plot, you have a neighbor behind you that need to get through your plot to get to that tap. Please leave the 6 inches unplanted and unfenced so that there is a one foot path between plots to snake a hose through. Each water tap serves a dozen or more plots so please don't leave your hose on the tap but unscrew it and put it off the path. If you use a sprinkler, you need to be careful it is only sprinkling your plants, turn it off and remove the hose before leaving the gardens and be considerate if others are waiting to use the water when you are sprinkling. Water is a valuable resource so please don't waste it.
Earth Day
We are so grateful to be gardening in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and surrounded by trees and wildlife and nature. This week we celebrate Earth Day and one good way to be thankful is to protect the natural world. Please don't remove anything from the Preserve lands and please don't leave trash or weedy debris in these areas. Mother Nature is fragile and we all need to do our best to protect the ecology of this area. Enjoy the hiking trails and flowers that are coming, but do your best to value and preserve these areas.
Looking forward to the green of new vegetables,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The daffodils are just starting to bloom and the bees are excited to have some flowers. It has been a glorious week and we hope to have the water turned on soon to help with the seeding.
We are trying to deal with the weed pile issues at University Houses, but the road in is very wet and we can't get truck traffic on it yet. For the next month, please take your plant refuse to the blacktop parking lot and use the southwest corner of the asphalt. Please don't put this material on the grass since it will kill the grass and keep the pile as compact as you can.
Plant sale this weekend:
On Sunday, from 11 am to 1 pm in Eagle Heights gardens near the shed, we will have transplants for cool season crops on sale. There should be a variety of cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other plants for sale. Our vendor raises these locally using organic methods and we have been very happy with the quality of the transplants in previous years. Prices will be comparable to the Farmer's market (where the vendor will also be selling). You might want to bring a small box or bucket to transport plants to your plot.
Workshop on soil preparation and tool use:
Sunday, during and after the sale, there will be a workshop conducted by Sandra, one of our very experienced gardener, on tool use, what you can add to your soil and soil preparation. This will be hands-on and include plenty of time for questions. Please drop in anytime between 11 am and 1:30 pm at the Eagle Heights shed. Later workshops will include pests and weeds and be conducted at University Houses and at Eagle Heights.
Workday announcements:
This week will be the first workday of the season at Eagle Heights. Here is how the workdays are done: You will get announcements in the emails as the workdays are scheduled.  . Some workdays can accommodate more volunteers and some only a few, so please do reply if you would like to sign-up and I'll let you know if there is room. I will reply with more instructions. We have many workdays through the year and plenty of opportunities. We'll vary the times and sites so everyone can find a chance to come participate. You can work any workday for credit, even if you garden at another site. Workdays meet at the garden sheds and please only sign up if you can work the full three hour shift.
Workday Saturday
This week the workday will be Saturday, April 18,  from 2 pm to 5 pm at Eagle Heights and we'll be doing a number of clean-up tasks in the common plantings and other areas. Please reply if you are interested and I'll let you know if we still need volunteers.
Hoping that the plot preparations are going well. Please be sure that you are not putting plant material in the trash but take it to the designated weed pile area. The University will not dump our trash if there are weeds or soil in there. Only trash should go in the dumpsters and no trash should go in the weed pile.
Check out the Garden Blog by Jenn, one of our co-chairs with pictures from the Seed Fair (available from our website in the left column):
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Seed Fair and Orientations:

Dear Gardeners,
I welcomed rain this week since the soil moisture will be improved as we get started seeding. I also noticed bluebirds and wrens investigating the bird houses in the gardens so time to make sure they are ready for our friends. Birds eat many insects, particularly when raising young, so please don't disturb them and consider a nest box in your plot.
This Saturday, April 11,  is our Seed Fair. At this event, gardeners with assigned plots can get some free seeds to help them get started, attend a workshop to learn more about gardening, buy row cover (and learn how to use it) and get more garden information. We will be in the big gym at the Eagle Heights Community Center with seeds available for gardeners at 9 am. You will be asked for the name of the principal gardener at Check-In and then will receive a string of tickets that can be traded for seed packets. Our seed donors have provided seeds from last year and most of these will still have good germination. Two very experienced gardeners will be hosting the garden planning and seed-starting workshop starting at 10:00 am. If you are new to gardening or just interested in learning more, come by the workshop and pick up information. Row cover fabric will be for sale at reasonable prices and comes with an instruction sheet.  There is also the last orientation sessions  (meet at the garden sheds) at noon (both Eagle Heights and University Houses) and at University Houses with Mandarin translation at 1 pm.
Mark your calenders for Sunday, April 19 for our "cool season" transplant sale from 11 am to 1 pm at Eagle Heights near the shed. We also will have a soil preparation and general garden questions workshop at the same time. More information next week on this but usually we have a great sale.
Please be sure that you are gardening in the right plot and that you are observing the 6" rule that means there is access on the sides of your plot (6 inches from you and 6 inches from your neighbor) for watering and plant tending. If you plant up to the line or into the path, you will need to move those beds and plants so that everyone can get to the water and their own plants. We need to keep the paths open for carts and other gardeners. At Eagle Heights, please note that the water taps are only every other row so the people behind you will need to get a hose through to the water. At University Houses, this is also true in the A/B rows.
A reminder that this year, we have a new rule about no motorized tilling or weed whips in the gardens. We have problems with safety issues with private tillers and tilling is not ideal for weed prevention, often making the problem worse. Also, we have had reports of dogs loose in the gardens. We would prefer not to have dogs around the vegetables at all, but dogs are permitted on leash and with attention of the owners to keep dogs out of plots and control them around toddlers, wildlife, and those that might be frightened of dogs.
Hope you are meeting your neighbors and getting the gardens planned. Spring crops can start going in although we won't have the water on until the danger of freezing is past.
Please take the survey if you haven't already:
Gardener Survey
Seed Fair is always a happy event as we start the season. Hope to see many of you there,
Gretel, Garden Registrar